CHARLOTTE – Bluesphere Corp., a clean-energy company based in Israel, plans to bring its first U.S. waste-to-energy plant to Charlotte.
The company revealed last week that it has started the design and engineering phases of a $1 million, 5.2 megawatt waste-to-energy plant at 600 Johnson Road, in north Charlotte. The design phase is the first step in the project but will soon be followed by work on site. The plant will turn farm and food waste into functional energy, according to Bluesphere. The company expects to finish the plant by the summer of 2015.
“This is an incredible milestone in the development of this project,” said Bluesphere CEO Shomi Palas. “From today and onward, there will now be constant activity on the project until it starts producing power in the summer of 2015. We have started the project on time and will produce and deliver power on schedule. This facility is a model for future Bluesphere projects.”
Bluesphere is the project owner, developer and manager for this 5.2 MW organics-to-energy anaerobic digester, which is what the industry calls the facility that will intake organic matter such as food and farm waste that would normally go into landfills and convert it to energy. The organic waste is processed in an anaerobic digester to emit biogas, which then is turned into electricity. The byproduct of this reaction is compost. The facility will generate revenue from the intake of organic waste, as well as the sale of clean, renewable electricity and the sale of compost, according to the company.
“We get the local waste by contracting with local organic waste management companies who can supply us with tons of organic waste,” Palas said. “We also work directly with large food companies and help subsidize the waste fees by picking up their waste directly.”
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, during anaerobic digestion, bacteria break down manure in an oxygen-free environment. One of the natural products of anaerobic digestion is biogas, which typically contains between 60 to 70 percent methane, 30 to 40 percent carbon dioxide, and trace amounts of other gases.
A unnamed Fortune 500 company has signed on to provide $13.8 million in debt project financing for the facility and a leading environmental finance fund will provide equity project financing of $9.1 million, according to Bluesphere. Palas wouldn’t identify these companies.
Duke Energy, one of the largest power holding companies in the U.S., has a signed a long-term contract with Bluesphere to purchase electricity generated at the Charlotte plant, according to news reports. Compost, which is a byproduct of the organics-to-energy generation process, will be purchased under a contractual agreement by a separate company.
Bluesphere will add to its cache of U.S. facilities in developing its second organics-to-waste facility in Rhode Island, the company said. By 2018, the company said it plans to have 11 facilities built and six more under construction and development.
Waste-to-energy is one of the fastest growing segments in the renewable energy markets, Bluesphere said. According to SBI Energy, which offers energy market analysis, the thermal and biological segments reached $6 billion in 2012 and will reach $29 billion by 2022.
With its efforts in the U.S., Palas said Bluesphere aspires to become a key player in the global waste-to-energy and renewable energy markets.
Developer: Bluesphere Corp., based in Israel
Project description: Bluesphere is in the design phase of a 5.2 megawatt waste-to-energy plant in Charlotte. The plant will convert food and farm waste into biogas, which will be sold to Duke Energy.
Address: 600 Johnson Road, Charlotte
Cost: $1 million for the plant; the company has received $22.9 million in financing to this point
Contractor: Austep, an Italian company with experience building similar plants in Europe
Project start: Construction is expected to begin within the next couple of months.
Expected completion: Summer 2015